Sicko - Michael Moore's new film

A non-musical post this one.

Saw Michael Moore's film 'Sicko' last week. Which is about American healthcare - or lack thereof.

As is the case with Moore's other films it had some flaws, mainly to do with a bit of selectiveness with the truth and a 'well-I-never' faux surprise at the existence of publicly-funded, universal health systems in Britain and France. Yep, they do exist (although probably not for much longer, if in Britain the Blairite 'reforms' continue and in France, Sarkozy has his Thatcher moment).

But 'Sicko' is one of the most moving films I've seen. I was expecting it to deal with the issue of the millions of Americans who don't have health insurance (and thus no healthcare) but it dealt more with the Americans who do have health insurance...and no healthcare. In other words, it tells the stories of the victims of insurance companies - organisations who look for loopholes in insurance policies to actively deny people treatment and maximise profit.

For me there was one overwhelmingly touching part of the film. It dealt with a woman whose husband got cancer. He had health insurance, but despite his family having paid money to an insurance company for years, and having found an exact match for a life-saving bone marrow transplant, the company wouldn't pay for his treatment (on entirely spurious grounds). You see footage of the guy with his son, laughing and chucking a football about, and then you hear the wife explain how, after the final decision by the insurance company not to pay up, she came home to find him hiding in the toilet, crying. His pride made him repeatedly ask her to go away, but finally he explained that he wasn't afraid of death; he just didn't want to lose his wife and son. I can't explain how sad this was to see and hear, but it reduced me and my girlfriend to tears.

There are lots of other examples in Sicko of how American health insurance companies use red tape and loopholes to deny people life-saving treatment. The film makes it very clear that once you introduce the profit motive into health insurance, it is in the insurer's interest, wherever possible, not to pay claims. And that only leads to people who need healthcare being denied it. And the whole thing made my blood boil.

It makes me feel glad that in the UK we have the National Health Service, which, for all its flaws, does not make income a prerequisite for life-saving treatment, or require you to be insured by an unscrupulous company before it lets you past the doors of its hospitals. Sadly, whether the NHS will continue to offer good, free healthcare is open to question; both the main political parties in the UK seem quite determined to let private companies become more and more involved in running it. That will bring the aforementioned profit motive, and the results will be distastrous - if profit becomes king in the UK, healthcare will eventually become the preserve of the well-off; or, private companies (read 'middle-men') will charge the government (read 'tax-payers') so much that it becomes unaffordable, and the quality of care will deteriorate to the point of no return. Needless to say, some camera-friendly Tory (read David Cameron) will then pip up that it's time to privatise the whole thing - and bye bye free healthcare.

If you don't believe me, watch Sicko.

Here's a clip: